Reclaiming the “aid narrative” and its power for the issue of social justice and global solidarity

The Track Changing Initiative (TCI) is a task group of the Kampala Initiative that was established during a civil society workshop on “How to advance cooperation and solidarity within and beyond aid” that took place in Kampala on 15-16 November 2019. The aim of this task group is to provide a critical and global civil society perspective on the “aid narrative”, and to look for more truthful alternatives grounded in social justice and global solidarity.

The “aid narrative” and the importance of finding an alternative

The current dominant story we are told about poor health and poverty is one of charity, aid and so-called “international development”. This story tells us that poverty and poor health can be overcome by generous donors in the “global north” simply giving to those in the “global south”.

But this narrative is untruthful and damaging – it acts as a smokescreen distracting us from demanding action on the real issues that create and maintain poor health; it undermines global solidarity by creating “otherness” and cementing colonially-rooted power relations in favour of the “global north”; and may also be linked with declining public support for development and global health related issues.

Social psychology and cognitive linguistics have shown us that how we communicate the issues we care about impacts how people think, feel and act on them. In other words, there is power in the language we use.

Studies such as this one really show how changing just one word in a sentence can make a difference to how people would address an issue.

We therefore believe that finding a more truthful way to communicate about poor health and poverty in the world is an important part of a strategy for transforming aid into an equitable means of ensuring health rights, and to build a future where health justice and equity are realised and aid is no longer a necessity.

We also believe that it is important to ensure that initiatives to move away from the traditional “aid narrative” incorporate the perspectives of communities most impacted by this language.

Track Changing Initiative

At a civil society workshop in Kampala, a group of civil society representatives came together to discuss, address and find alternatives to the “aid narrative”. We agreed that the aid narrative” deserved continued attention from activists around the world, bringing a global perspective on this issue, and so formed the Track Changing Initiative.

The aim of this task group is to provide, and engage others, in a critical global civil society perspective on the “aid narrative”, and to collectively look for more truthful alternatives grounded in social justice and global solidarity.

We aim to do this through the implementation of our work plan, which contributes to and compliments work Health Poverty Action is already carrying out in this area.

Core team

  • Akaninyene Obot, Nnamdi Azikiwe University & Ukana West 2 Community Based Health Initiative, Nigeria
  • Baijayanta Mukhopadhyay, People’s Health Movement, Canada
  • Danny Gotto, Innovations for Development, Kenya
  • Linda Shuro, People’s Health Movement, South Africa
  • Lizzy Igbine, Nigerian Women Agro Allied Farmers Association
  • Spéro Hector Ackey, People’s Health Movement, Benin (co-ordinator)
  • Tess Woolfenden, Health Poverty Action, UK (co-ordinator)

Documents

The Track Changing Initiative (TCI) is a task group of the Kampala Initiative. We invite interested civil society to consider joining our group: If you have endorsed the Kampala Declaration and are able to contribute actively to this group’s work, please send an expression of interest to Tess on t.woolfenden@healthpovertyaction.org with the following information:

  • Your name, country of residence/work and institutional affiliation
  • Your background interest in the TCI work plan
  • A statement on what you could contribute to our planned activities

Please note that we aim to ensure that there is equal regional representation within this group.